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Changes promise to cut B.C. development negotiations, provide certainty

Legislation also reforms development cost charges giving municipalities more flexibility
New proposed legislation promises to speed up construction of housing and expand the use of development cost charges funding urban infrastructure. (Black Press Media file photo)

New legislation tabled Tuesday (Nov. 7) promises to speed up the construction of new housing in B.C. by eliminating lengthy and costly re-zoning negotiations between developers and municipalities.

The legislation also reforms the charges municipalities can collect to fund infrastructure.

Developers and municipalities commonly negotiate over “community amenity contributions” — cash, in-kind contributions or desired elements like affordable housing — in exchange for development rights, like increased density.

The new legislation promises to reduce delays associated with this by cutting the number of re-zonings through up-front zoning.

Government promises to achieve this outcome through a new, optional tool for municipalities: amenity cost charges.

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon said they allow municipalities to exactly tell developers what kind of contributions they want and how much they will cost.

This certainty will eliminate the familiar but often costly and in-transparent back-and-forth negotiations during re-zonings, Kahlon said, adding that it will also tell developers whether their projects are viable.

Kahlon acknowledged that ACCs will require municipalities to do more up-front planning, but they will be able to adjust in case they need additional services.

ACCs will also be able to fund projects, which are currently not eligible for funding through traditional development cost charges historically used to fund urban infrastructure.

Union of British Columbia Municipalities president Trish Mandewo welcomed the tabled legislation. She said it would assist local governments finance critical facilities.

“The new legislative tool for amenity cost charges provides more certainty in collecting needed funds for some essential amenities like day cares, recreational facilities and libraries,” she said.

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Municipalities have previously raised concerns about the availability of money for urban infrastructure.

But Mandewo also points to some gaps in the legislation. “Other common practices, like funding affordable housing through amenities, have not been addressed under the new rules and our members will be looking for the province to address this gap,” Mandewo said.

The legislation also reforms development cost charges typically collected to help pay for sewer and water among other types of urban infrastructure. Municipalities will now be able to use those charges to pay for fire halls, police stations and solid waste facilities. They can only use property taxes currently.

Municipalities would also be able to use monies collected through development cost charges to help pay their share of provincial highway projects directly benefiting communities, such as roads to new housing.

Anne McMullin, president and CEO of Urban Development Institute, praised the legislation.

“UDI is encouraged by this new legislation which aims to make development charges more transparent and predictable,” she said. “Combined with the zoning measures announced last week, these are some of the most substantial changes to the development approval process in decades.”

Kahlon last week tabled legislation that increases the density on lots currently zoned for single-residential homes and duplexes. Developers will be able to build between three and six units on such lots in the future, depending on their proximity to transit.

Tuesday’s legislation builds on proposed changes to the planning process tabled last week. Pending passage, municipalities will have to update their Official Community Plans spelling out future land-uses every five years and plan out their housing needs for the next twenty years. That same legislation also proposes to eliminate public hearings for uses consistent with OCPs. Municipalities will still require to hold public hearings when they are updating their OCPs or considering re-zoning inconsistent with their OCPs.

Tuesday’s legislation is the second in as many days dealing with housing. On Monday, government tabled legislation that creates a more precise definition of adequate shelter, a move designed to give judges clear guidelines when municipalities seek injunctions to dismantle tent cities.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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